Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties, which have been cured only by sticking on some ugly bandages:
And while I could probably turn itemizing complaints about social-media companies into a perpetual gig somewhere — because there's always going to be new material — I think it's best to list only just a few more for now.
After that, we ought to step back and weigh what reforms or other social responses we really need.
The first six classes of complaints are detailed in Parts 1 and 2, so we begin here in Part 3 with Complaint Number 7.
As a source of that generalization we can do no better than to begin with Tristan Harris's July 28, TED talktitled "How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day.
That effort has now been renamed the Center for Humane Technology http: Harris says his new effort — which also has the support of former Mozilla interface designer Aza Raskin and early Facebook funder Roger McNamee — represents a social movement aimed at making us more aware of the ways in which technology, including social media and other internet offerings, as well as our personal devicesare continually designed and redesigned to make them more addictive.
Yes, there's that notion of addictiveness again — we looked in Part 2 at claims that smartphones are addictive and talked about how to address that problem. But regarding the "mind control" variation of this criticism, it's worth examining Harris's specific claims and arguments to see how they compare to other complaints about social media and big tech generally.
In his June TED talk. Harris begins with the observation that social-media notifications on your smart devices, may lead you to have thoughts you otherwise wouldn't think: If you swipe over that notification, it schedules you into spending a little bit of time getting sucked into something that maybe you didn't intend to get sucked into.
This is something every communications company has always done — it's why ratings services for traditional broadcast radio and TV exist. Instead, the goal is to how they actually behave, and then gear their advertising content to shape or leverage consumers' unconscious desires.
Even so, Packard is careful in his book, in its penultimate chapter, to address what he calls "the question of validity" — that is, the question of whether "hidden persuaders'" strategies and tactics for manipulating consumers and voters are actually scientifically grounded.
Quite properly, Packard acknowledges that the claims of the MR companies may have been oversold, or may have been adopted by companies who simply lack any other strategy for figuring out how to reach and engage consumers. In spite of Packard's scrupulous efforts to make sure that no claims of advertising's superpowers to sway our thinking are accepted uncritically, our culture nevertheless has accepted at least provisionally the idea that advertising and its political cousin, propagandaaffects human beings at pre-rational levels.
It is this acceptance of the idea that content somehow takes us over that Tristan Harris invokes consistently in his writings and presentations about how social media, the Facebook newsfeed, and internet advertising work on us. Harris prefers to describe how these online phenomena affect us in deterministic ways: Outrage is a really good way also of getting your attention.
Because we don't choose outrage — it happens to us. Vance Packard includes commercial advertising as well as political advertising as centerpieces of what he calls "the large-scale efforts being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences.
But remember that what Harris says about internet advertising or Facebook notifications or the Facebook news feed is true of all communications.
It is the very nature of communications among human beings that they give us thoughts we would not otherwise have. It is the very nature of hearing things or reading things or watching things that we can't unhear them, or unread them, or unwatch them.
This is not something uniquely terrible about internet services. Instead it is something inherent in language and art and all communications. You can find a good working definition of "communications" in Article 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that individuals have the right "to seek, receive, or impart information.
They arguably are exercising their human rights! Similarly, the fact that writers and editors, including me, try to study how words can be more effective when it comes to sticking in your brain is not an assault on your agency. It should give us pause that so many complaints about Facebook, about social media generally, about internet information services, and about digital devices actively if maybe also unconsciously echo complaints that have been made about any new mass medium or mass-media product.
What's lacking in modern efforts to criticize social media in particular — and especially when it comes to big questions like whether social media are damaging to democracy — is the failure of most critics to be looking at their own hypotheses skeptically, seeking falsification which philosopher Karl Popper rightly notes is a better test of the robustness of a theory rather than verification.
As for all the addictive harms that are caused by combining Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other internet services with smartphones, isn't it worth asking critics whether they've considered turning notifications off for the social-media apps?
Harris's co-conspirator Roger McNamee, whose authority to make pronouncements on what Facebook and other services are doing wrong derives primarily from his having gotten richer from them, is blunter in his assessment of Facebook as a public-health menace: Only someone who fancies himself part of an elite that's immune to what Harris calls "persuasion" would presume to draw that conclusion about the hoi polloi.
But let me focus instead on the second part--the bit about the ads with "unprecedented effectiveness. Let's allow for a moment that maybe that claim is true! Even if that's so, advertising has played a central role in Western commerce for at least a couple of centuries, and in world commerce for at least a century, and the idea that we need to make advertising less effective is, I think fairly clearly, a criticism of capitalism generally.
Now, capitalism may very well deserve that sort of criticism, but it seems like an odd critique coming from someone who's already profited immensely from that capitalism.Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, (61 AD – ca.
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Denialism is used to deny reality or avoid an uncomfortable truth. In Science, denialism is defined as the rejection of basic concepts that are undisputed and well-supported by the scientific community in favor of radical ideas and theories.
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